If you are watching The Birth of a Nation and you are wondering why the battlefield near Petersburg does not look much like Virginia it’s because 1) you have a keen eye and 2) it’s Burbank, California.
I was hiking in the Hollywood Hills the other day and came up on a good vista of the area – now Forest Lawn Cemetery. Much of the scene pictured in the immediate foreground was the Petersburg “set,” which stretched for several miles. Griffith oversaw the scenes from a tower and shouted direction – big megaphone in hand: just as you might imagine a silent film director would look, sans the jodhpurs.
So we have Virginia with chaparral – odd to be sure. Sometimes you have to work with what you’ve got!